With other colorful splashes of vitriol

Lovecraft goes to the pharmacy, trudges up and down the aisles, finds what he is looking for (a case of vaseline) and repairs to the counter, where he flashes a smile at the cashier, a dour specimen of a girl with a freckled face and friendly though bovine eyes. A flimsy carousel, displaying in candylike packages the sort of appurtenance often sold in public bathrooms, suddenly rotates, momentarily blocking his view of the exit. By dint of habit, he is always keenly aware of all points of egress.

Next moment Lovecraft’s credit card is refused with a small but foreboding fanfare. This embarrasses not only himself but the orange-haired youngster behind him clutching several cartons of ribbed condoms. In narratology, this event is called the ‘inciting incident’ or, to use Gérard Genette’s terminology, the ‘impregnable incident.’ (Scholars may wish to challenge the veracity of this term as it smacks of pure chimera.)

Outside, clouds scud bankward, and this is where we find Lovecraft following the cottony puffs, at a stiff pace, to the edifice whose name, Benito Bank, was emblazoned upon the tidy rectangle of laminated plastic having caused the ruckus in the first instance, and which sported a hologram of a festive scene, where Bacchus and three airily-clad females drink cooking sherry from the bottom of an iridescent, indigo-black high heel pump.

Some five minutes later, Lovecraft arrives at the bank having exhausted his capacity to whistle gaily, and is confronted with a series of gold-plated revolving doors–surely a metaphor for the va-et-vient, the hither and thither of transactional banking: life reduced to a devaluing series of transactions.

Sunlight breaks into the building, which strikes Lovecraft as ironic: most people are seeking to break out of the money palace.

Catching a glimpse of an unoccupied bank representative, Lovecraft undertakes to arrive there with the legendary speed of lightning–mind now, not the accuracy, as angry bolts from the firmament often decimate perfectly salvageable structures, such as those pearl-white gazebos parked haphazardly in the verdant countryside, while giving a pass to heaps of rubbish which, when looked upon rationally, provide little enjoyment to anyone. Lovecraft, presently making himself as large as possible, looms over the bank employee and asks, “Are you the swine that tried to neutralize me?”

The clerk, a small man with a square jaw and watery eyes, clears his throat. “Passcode.”

“EBFS,” was the perfectly timed riposte, Lovecraft’s mnemonic for “execution by firing squad.” The diminutive man launched into an indiscreet ballet of mad, migraine-inducing rat-tat-tat on the keyboard, coupled with interminably long bouts of the dwarfish man staring blankly at a screen, as if to divine some meaning hitherto beyond the reach of humankind.

“Listen, Willy,” says Lovecraft. “You don’t mind if I call you Willy, do you?” An awkward, slightly pregnant pause. “I’m in front of your mug because your bank has seen fit to throw shade on my credit. For shame.”

The clerk remains stoic, conjuring up another screen. A list of names populates the dark void. His finger–a long member with a vaguely phosphorescent sheen–slithers down the list, then stops abruptly. “Credit card refutations: Mrs. Seaman,” he says perfunctorily, and then proffers a dismissive wave.

In another corner of the building a man is heard yelling “fascists,” which quickly gives way to other colorful splashes of vitriol.

Scoffing at the clerk’s insolence, Lovecraft turns volte-face. Meanwhile, drooping velvet ropes keep throngs of customers corralled. Like animals.

Soon he is accosted by a couple of sallow-faced bank guards, the tallest of the two muttering ‘like a dog’ under his foul breath. They are unpleasant, but polite. Impeccably dressed too.

Next Lovecraft is ushered into a small cubicle, whereupon he is seated forcibly across from a woman in a bathrobe. Was this Mrs. Seaman? Her head is covered by a phalanx of plastic curlers and her face smothered by a mud mask covering the entire real estate of her face.

“Sorry to discommode you,” starts Lovecraft, “but are you the one responsible for the bank’s shameful conduct?” At this point Lovecraft deftly pulls the wallet from his back pocket and removed the credit card, indignantly waving it about. “My credit card was declined at a very respectable shop in town. Are you sufficiently shamed?”

She takes the avatar of Lovecraft’s discontent from his hand, and exits to an antechamber. She returns, bathrobe intact, with a folder, which she lays out on the desk like a winning poker hand. “Johnny Lovecraft,” she sighs. “Your account has been in arrears since 1956.”

Lovecraft clasps his hands behind his head, supremely confident. “Impossible.” He pauses to reflect. “Though there is admittedly a gap between the impossible and the improbable.” His eyes narrow. “Yes, I acknowledge the error of my ways.” His voice deepens. “Still, nothing can alter my harsh opinion of Benito Bank.”

“Your healthy revulsion does you credit. But I can tell you that the chairman of Benito Bank, Mr. Rump, is a great man. A very great man.” She closes the folder, smiling through the mud. “Life is permanent warfare.” She stares dreamily at an imaginary ceiling fan. “A very great man.” She jerks her shoulder suddenly, ending her elegant soliloquy with some foggy thing she remembered: “All that corporate profits need to gain a foothold–is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

Later, in the jaunty spring of 2020, after a little scrape with Hyperbolea, which left one hundred thousand dead—still and all, not bad business for Benito Bank, whose tentacles reached Hyperbolea—Lovecraft and the recently widowed Mrs. Seaman would be wed at a cacophonous ceremony, forever curing Lovecraft’s disdain of high finance.

Ana (Part 4 of 4)

The grandfather clock’s arthritic and age-spotted hands indicated, by inscrutable conventions set ages ago at the first watchmaker’s council, that it was 8 o’clock—rather ironic seeing as though the clock had stopped discharging its duties for months now and was presently correct, but only by chance. A house waking. The usual hullabaloo. Spears of latticed light escaping from the blinds and tattooing themselves on the heliotropic parquetry. Everyone had assembled in the kitchen, except for my sister, whose irrepressibly golden hair, having probably just been coerced into a tidy chignon, seemed to demand the same undying attention that daylilies, for want of a fresh face, sought from morning sunbursts.

I sat on the wobbly stool and the irregular rat-a-tat of its helter-skelter rocking seemed to annoy everyone. Though it was reasonable to expect that all chairs were blind at birth, this one gave the sonic impression of a white-tipped cane continuously probing unfamiliar surroundings. Unperturbed and still somewhat mystified by the opium of sleep, I jotted down the raised eyebrows and disapproving faces and slipped the notepad and pen into my knapsack to avoid detection.

“Where’s your sister, Mandy?” asked my mother, as she surveyed my clothes for starry specks of lint, an improvident crease, or the slightest hint of imperfection.

“I don’t know.” I turned to my father and said, “I hope she ran away.” And with the palliative glow of a sudden revelation, I understood that whereas a hypnotist might repeatedly incant some subliminal mantra, I enunciated my prosaic observation too frequently, and it seemed to me then a grave strategic error since the constancy of the utterance was more likely to blunt its meaning than to tunnel itself into my father’s cerebral cortex, and as though to prove the point, the honey-lipped giant ate his butter and Manuka toast, payed no attention to my soliloquy, and all the while ruffled noisily the pages of his newspaper. “In case anyone is wondering, I saw her in front of the hall mirror.” He paused, took a sip of black coffee and added, “Why do we have so many mirrors in this house?”

“You have two daughters, that’s why,” said my mother in a disconsolate tone of voice.

I sat warming my hands on a bowl of oatmeal. “Are you daydreaming?” asked my mother, flitting around the table like a bee chancing upon a blossomy field of buckwheat.

I noticed a few strands of previously undetected silver-gray hairs on my mother’s temples. “Do you have to go to work?” I asked with solemn desperation. My mother’s mauve skirt, clear complexion, slightly turned up nose, coiffed hair, and eight-handed approach to kitchen duties were incontrovertible evidence that this morning, like so many before, was a thrall to modern domestic efficiency. She finally stopped for a moment and pulled up a chair next to me. “I already explained it to you, my darling. I have to. And I’ll see you tonight. A little later than usual. Okay?”

The reasonableness of her words hung heavily like a leaden sky. “I want you to listen in school, Amanda. No more making up excuses for not doing your homework. And no more stories. Do you hear me? No more Ana.” She touched my hair as a small child might touch an angel’s wings. “You know what Mrs Handly said, having an imaginary sister was not healthy. And that you have to learn to live outside of the world of fiction. Wasn’t that what she said at the meeting?”

“Yes, mother.” I lowered my head and stared at the frothy milk and porridge that was, it seemed to me, making gossamer clouds.

Ana (Part 3 of 4)

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When Ana awakened from her concoction of sleep and mock-sleep, she was clutching the white dress, and her spiral-bound notepad, suddenly taking flight, carefully negotiated tall, snow-capped pines to manage a skillful crash landing in a lucky-to-be-found clearing. It was now nearly midnight and Alexa had vanished. Ana, feeling lightheaded, put down the rumpled dress, picked up the notepad, and, with a few mincing steps, made her way to the door where, pressing her elfin nose to the glass, she stared listlessly into the semidarkness. She looked in desperation for the would-be thief, while her imagination, fleeting across the candlelight paleness of the snowy terrain, was trying to produce tangible traces of a lost prince. She quivered in dim hope for some sign of the boy. After a time she grabbed hastily the coat from the back of the chair, put it on, and, leaving it unbuttoned, opened the door. A stream of cold air rushed in and wrapped itself around her like a boa wraps its prey.

“I’m still on duty,” said the gelid voice from the darkness. There was a brief silence till Ana whispered, “My soldier boy!” Tiny flecks of snow landed on the wings of her nose and he entered timidly, noticeably ashamed at having stayed out for so long in the bitter cold. He cupped his hands together and tried to warm them with his ardent breath.

“I don’t even know your name,” she said, tensing her thin, dark brows.

He dusted the snow from his sleeves, squared his shoulders, and said, “Peter, Peter Menard, but my friends call me Frankenstein.”

Ana stood on the tip of her toes to see if there were in his eyes rumblings of a bellicose monster. “That’s a strange thing to call someone!”

“You see, my father was a tool and die maker, and he now owns a hardware store. I help out on Saturdays,” began Peter. “And since I always played with nuts and bolts as a boy, the name was a natural.” He turned to her, and seeing as if for the first time her bright eyes, was immediately struck by the queer impression that her satiny black hair was that of a proud gelding in the early light of day. Ana folded her arms and sighed. “So that was from your father’s hardware store. And to think I accused you of being a thief,” said Ana, reproaching herself for having reached an unjust conclusion. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Would it have made a difference? People believe what they want to,” said Peter looking deep into her eyes.

“I would have believed you,” insisted Ana leaning indolently on the bookcase by the window. “You never asked me for my name, though. It’s Ana.”

“I know. Anna with one ‘n.’ I saw it before, on one of your notebooks,” said Peter, smarting from his early discovery.

“You’re a spy, then. Sent from some unscrupulous government. But I don’t care. I still have your feather,” said the girl, lowering her suddenly doleful eyes.

“It’s very late and now that we have properly introduced ourselves I must go,” said Peter darkly. They had been moving closer and closer to one another, and Peter touched her milky cheek with the unexpected warmth of his sunfilled hand, after which, in an unbearable sweep, he turned around, opened the door, whence there blew a whirlwind of frosty pollen. And as though the razorlike cold of the night were his true mistress, Peter left silently and without a trace.

Ana (Part 2 of 4)

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They stood face to face, and after a prolonged moment heard the sound of footfalls coming from behind Ana’s bedroom door.

“You have to go,” she said in a muted tone. She reached for the icy-cold door handle, opened it and, gingerly yet resourcefully, pushed him onto the balcony, saying all the while, “Go back into the darkness. Go now.” The deathless wind transformed the snow into a sandpapery sheet, and once the door was closed, an eerie silence blanketed the room.

Anna crossed the room. “Can I come in?” said the shrilly soprano behind the door.

Having at once recognized the voice she rolled her eyes and said, “Yes, Alexa, come in.”

The door opened slowly and the unwelcomed girl stepped into the cocoonlike room, made her way to the bed, and sat down on the quilted duvet (the one whose colors reminded her of the riotous russet hues of autumn).

Alexa had her sleek black laptop tucked under her arm. “You’re going to do your homework here?” exclaimed Ana, unable to conceal her desperation at the thought that Alexa should choose this evening, the one with an august moon and a frozen boy waiting hopelessly on the balcony, to commandeer her room.

“I have an essay to write. Do you mind if I work here?” said the tall-as-a-skyscraper girl, pushing her hair back and exposing a snow-white ear, the other still sequestered behind a lavish curtain of gold.

“No. I mean why can’t you do that in your room?” asked Ana, her face reddening with an access of fury.

“I don’t want to sit in the dark,” replied Alexa, pausing and then smacking her lips..

“Couldn’t you put the lights on? You’re such a putz,” said Ana incredulously, after which she stood up and started pacing the room like a caged bobcat.

“Don’t ask so many questions–besides you wouldn’t understand,” continued Alexa, well aware that the small but important difference in their age gave her the upper hand in matters of fashion, for one, but primarily in the sanctimonious arena of unassailable logic.

“I hate you,” retorted Ana, stopping directly in front of Alexa and stomping her foot with a thud.

“No wonder you get sent home from school a lot,” said Alexa in the authoritarian tone of a rosy-faced dictator.

Ana was in no mood for vacuous pontifications. “Mind your own business.”

Her elder sister’s long lashes now dithered as she typed on her wafer-thin keyboard, and the silver barrette in her spring-garden hair shone brutishly in the light. “Do the kids at school still tease you? You don’t make it easy on yourself, you know.” The rumor that Ana had made an impolitic remark while at school swirled around the neighborhood like water draining from a bathtub. “You should really learn to hold your tongue,” added Alexa impassively.

“I’m the most popular girl in my class,” chirped Ana.

“In your dreams!” exclaimed Alexa, who lay curled on the bed like a soulless sultana. And with the swing of a malevolent arm she pushed a stuffed rabbit onto the flat weave carpet saying, “You’re fifteen. Why do you have children’s things?” Ana sat silently on a burgundy chaise clutching a soft percale dress that needed mending.

“You know, it’s freezing in here,” said Alexa. “Aren’t you cold?”

“No. But if you’re so cold you can just leave.”

“I told you, I have work to do,” said Alexa with frustration. “And why do you keep looking outside? You’re making me nervous.”

Unaware that she was interposing in her younger sister’s affairs and that, apart from anything else, reading aloud a short passage with the dull intonations of a librarian would only serve to heighten Ana’s belief that the stars, pinpricks in a dark, unmanageable fabric, were actively conspiring against her, Alexa nonetheless persisted in her recitation: “The Eloi are meek artisans that live on fruit and the Morlocks, who live underground, surface on moonless nights to feed on the Eloi.” From a comfortable repose, Alexa slid her feet from the bed onto a dense carmine throw rug. “Where are you going?” asked Ana with growing alarm.

“I’m going to see if there’s a moon out.”

“Don’t you dare,” objected Ana. “I told you there is one. Can’t you see it’s bright out?”

Alexa marched defiantly to the glass door to see the moon for herself. Unseen specks of snow at her feet, whose propinquity to the glass door kept them intact, were improvident and glistening reminders of Ana’s stolid secret.

“You’re right. I see it now, behind a cloud,” said Alexa, returning to the warmth of the bed. From that time on not a word was spoken, and sleep drifted stealthily into the room like a curled puff of smoke, and the insufferable bliss of having been given a magnificent feather was for Ana suspended over a pool of limpid dreams.

Ana (Part 1)

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It was early evening, and a thin band of tawny brightness stretched across the sky. For some time already a powdery snow had begun to fall. Ana, a porcelain-skinned girl, sat idly on her bed and gazed out of the French doors, which gave boastfully onto the soft ivory of a winter garden. At the far end of the property there stood an iron gate, and, in the dim light of the moon, the snow looked like a wavy quilt of fine silk. She cast a glance at the swanlike elegance of the wintry trees, and with a sudden turn of her head noticed a strange agitation near the cedar arbor where, out of the shadowy depths and into a rectangle of pale light, stepped a tall, sinewy figure. He disappeared again into the shadows, and to satisfy her curiosity, Ana, somehow believing she had seen a ghost, warily opened the door.

“If you stand there with the door open you’ll catch your death of cold,” said a voice that resonated in the chill air. It belonged to a young man in a black duster coat and an ivy cap.

“Then you must come in,” said Ana “but be very quiet. My father is a reasonable man, but would probably kill you if he found you here. And there’s no telling what my mother would do.” With great clarity Ana went on to explain how her mother had enthusiastically developed a hierarchy of punishment, where death by a poorly aimed pistol, for instance, was of lower standing than, say, the slow loss of vigor by secretive means. “But these methods are more or less dated and mother seems obliged to find new ones.”

She spoke in hushed tones, yet the boy was mesmerized by the animated girl who stood before him in a flowing white nightgown, like a sylph, and with the dry squeak of snow under his feet, he took a step forward.

“I don’t normally let strangers into my room,” she said hesitantly.

“But I’m not a stranger. I know your sister. Well, I’ve seen her here and there,” said the boy in a cheerful tone.

His voice had the freshness of a windswept field of buttercups, yet it seemed caught somewhere between the plush of boyhood and the diamond hardness of adulthood, and the first thing she noticed, as he stepped through the door, was a dusting of snow covering the felt of his mid-calf boots.

“Well, here we are, “ said Ana with a smile.

While he closed the door she fetched a leather jacket from her wardrobe and draped it across her shoulders, gently tossing back her voluminous hair. A thin wisp of perfume circled the room and Ana stood stock-still, several loose strands of her bible black hair crossing her lips.

“Do you have any other sisters?” he asked narrowing his eyes.

Ana paused for a moment and began with a melancholy voice, “No. There was a time when I did, and I had wished for my mother’s fairykin to die, and one soulless night it did.”

“You’re a strange girl,” he said knitting his eyebrows.

“What were you doing in the garden, standing so still? Are you a runaway?” She paused and bit her lower lip. “I’d like to run away, but my parents wouldn’t allow it.”

“But that’s the whole point of running away—no one is supposed to know,” he said, suddenly remembering to remove his cap.

She gave him a crooked look. “I know what a runaway is. I just meant I couldn’t do it. I’m afraid of the dark, for one thing.”

“I’m from the darkness. Are you afraid of me?” asked the boy, secreting his black cap into an empty pocket.

“No,” she said, clearing her throat and then placing an indolent finger on her cheek, where he had but a moment ago seen a dimple.

Looking around the room he saw pictures of ballet dancers and bookshelves filled with exotic looking books, and on a small writing desk were a music box, an apple peel on a rose-colored napkin, a notebook , and a box of sharpened pencils.

“I have something for you,” he began. “You may remember me by it.” He thrust his hand deep into the other pocket, made a tight fist, raised into the light his hand and, unfurling his long, pinkish fingers, produced a delicate white feather. A broad smile extended athwart Ana’s face, but alas his impressive sleight of hand was soon brought to an end by a resonant clang.

He crouched down and picked up a dull piece of metal and returned it to his pocket.

“What was that?” she asked with the heedless curiosity of a bear cub exploring a newly minted world.

“Nothing,” said the boy sharply.

“Let me see it.” He hesitated and then showed her the noisy offender.

“That’s something of my father’s. You’re not a runaway. You’re a thief!“ exclaimed the girl.

Personality, the scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind.

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The thing about personality is that either you have it or you don’t. And if there’s one thing I learned about weighing a modest five pounds (when I haven’t just eaten half a lemon meringue pie, as that tends to skew the result) it’s that you have to have personality, the scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind. In my case I reckon my plumage accounts for most of the measurable mass, and that I’d very nearly be massless without it, which has dire implications for the expansion/contraction of the universe argument. But these measurements, like life itself, are all very speculative—for instance, just how much can a bit of cartilage weigh? And bones the size of toothpicks certainly don’t register on any scale I know of—let’s face it, I don’t live at CERN (and the particle accelerator next to my water bowl is made of cheap plastic and probably a fake); I just live in a plain dog house, equipped with a sauna, two large screen televisions, and Mr. Frisky, a megalomanic armadillo, stuffed lovingly by Chinese factory hands with the plushest gossamer, bearing a chewed-off ear, like a cross, probably the result of some guerrilla war, most likely the brutal campaign fought against toy store owners in the 1980s—you must recall it. I wasn’t yet born at the time, but then again who was?

Do you love me?

The sunset was a long, glowering strip of torrid horizon. I reached for her hand and we began to walk. “Do you love me?” I asked, squinting from the ruddy sun. The waves lashed the shore. Ash-gray gulls soared to harried heights. “Absolutely,” said the raven haired nymph, and we continued to stroll on an endless, iridescent beach. And, with self-shining eyes, she would stop and look back to count my footsteps–hers were invisible (untabulatable steps in the Book of Wickedness mean you are in love). Then I would again stretch out my now steady hand and beckon her to follow me, and in a low susurrus she would gently mouth, “absolutely.”

I will interrupt this dreadful half-start in order to do a little stocktaking. In fiction it is perfectly admissible to create a small world, and thenceforth, out of politeness, follow its small, and petty, dictates. Case in point: the woman only speaks one word: “absolutely.” Are we to take this literally? Is it possible that the man is vacationing and that the woman is a native of some tropical island knowing only one English word? And it goes without saying that the narrator, sometimes little more than a hairsbreadth from the author, has, by the use of the word raven, alluded to Poe’s most famous poem. This is clearly a tipsy, idiosyncratic instance where the author hectors the narrator into applying a telltale adjective—suffusing the voluptuous and featherlight beach beauty’s Aphrodisian hair with stark blackness, and seeking to draw a parallel between the usage of “nervermore” and “absolutely,” both stellar examples of one-word languages. The reader of Poe’s narrative comes to understand, after several candlelight dinners with Cole’s Notes, that “nevermore” is a pliable word that can, like a tailored suit, be made to fit any shape, from the thinness of a lath nail to the pudgy puffiness of a pouter pigeon.

And it should be noted that the unnamed “I”, John as it turns out (funny how that puts rather a different twist on things) is also somewhat inarticulate. He seems to only know four words. A modern love story, to be sure. This cautionary tale subtly exposes, by a very thin, almost imaginary margin, the dangers of how frail modern technologies such as texting stifle the natural floridness of a language (Poe was a visionary with his one word encapsulation of a self-serving plunge into the bathos of remorse). I am certain that some of you may feel that I have crossed the rubicon and landed in the daisy field of didacticism. Not so. Having a severely truncated language may after all be a good thing, as certain writers use by far too many adjectives. But don’t you love them? Don’t you love me.

Rainforest Plum Jam

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PART I (For those of you following along, Part II will be available in approximately fifteen years (anyway, I’m keeping my mud-spattered fingers crossed). I will at the time refresh your memory since I don’t expect you to recall with vivid precision the minute details to follow, and I know all too well that chronic, purblind anticipation can sometimes force the hippocampus to scamper and wind up at a sister campus clear across town–if I may use a metaphor from the dreary world of academia–and spoil the whole thing.

Meanwhile I’m preparing to make my first batch of Rainforest Plum jam (trademark pending). I’ve scrubbed the counter top, lined up my glass jars, little hexagonal affairs with a rounded top, and excitedly ripped open a bag of white sugar, which I do not have in the house, and so you must now be prepared to accept the preposterous notion that this is all a fantasy. And it is. Table sugar! In my house! It’s not that I wouldn’t have a modest quantity of these heavenly grains ( beautifully chiseled by cherubs) somewhere in the unplumbed depths my cupboards–it’s that I never make desserts or jam (the very notion is incompatible with the life of an ascetic). But there’s a first time for everything. However, there are still a few little details to iron out. For instance, the ‘plum’ seeds have not germinated yet; and that small aggravation is easily dwarfed by the fact that I never have held the near-fabled seeds in my grubby hands, and this is further complicated by the embarrassing niggle that I have been unable to locate a vendor that has even heard of the darned things. Still, I persist. Purply-red jam, lip-smacking goodness—isn’t that right, Ariel? Wake me, please.

Eugenia candolleana is the little number I must have. If this is sounding like an obsession, let me assure you that it isn’t. I don’t even know if the fruit would make a fetching jam (though I’ve heard told that copious amounts of sugar can educe jam-like qualities from the most recalcitrant sources). Call it a Hyblean hunch because obsession, in my experience, is a horse of a different color. Purple, probably—if that’s not putting too fine a point on it. And there you see, we have taken a circuitous path back to the delectable, unabashedly purple berry. My God, it is an obsession! But the beauty of those long hours spent in counseling is that tiny trifles, even those with a purplish hue, are stopped from metastasizing into a monstrous, all-consuming haze. Devising incredibly malefic, scarcely feasible plans to deter mice from eating your tiny seedlings (should they germinate) is, and I’m parroting my counselor, not an appropriate way to occupy a botanist’s time (little does she know that most botanist’s have plenty of time on their hands owing to the present state of the economy).

This post is dedicated to the Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, not so much for being an enterprising botanist (at the very least he was always able to reliably find work) but for having such a great name.

Our story began…

xDSC_3108_neo_smGabon. Moyen-Ogooué. 1960. Dans la forêt sanglotante, abrité sous l’aile du soir… A beaded curtain rustled in the wind, its wooden jewels producing a delightful tintinnabulation, mainly, it would seem, for the sinistraural enjoyment of black beetles, now scouring the floor for moldy bits of couscous. In a stuffy corner of the room, under the indolent sway of a rusty ceiling fan, the helter-skelter disarray of clutter, hastily piled on a roundwood table, proved irresistible for a band of marauding capuchin monkeys that collected, among other things, cherry-scented pencil erasers, shiny chocolate bar wrappers, and, under a babel-like stack of papers, a dull blue passport. Then, as unexpectedly as a nosebleed, a herd of forest elephants shook the ground, forcing the slinky thieves to scamper. Thus, in the steamy jungle of Gabon, our story began.

Lilith (part 1)

You wake up because of the shrieking sirens. You look out of the window and see an improvident dawn with its voluptuous curtain of darkness rising. Faintly a plume of smoke billows to the east. Charcoaly air reaches your nostrils. You grope around for some clothes, excitedly get them on (shirt inside out) and then dart out the door where, in the shed, behind the wheelbarrow, amid your uncle’s tools, your red pedal bike slumbers.

The short stories have been moved to a password protected page.